As an Optimum customer, you’re allowed to use your own cable modem and a router, and avoid paying the rental fees. Your internet provider doesn’t tell you that because it makes a great profit from charging you those fees. Oh, and also because ISPs are not legally obligated to inform you that you’re allowed to use your own equipment.
We are here to tell you about the advantages of having your own modem and router and present to you our selection of best Optimum compatible modems. For starters, we will make a short analysis of Optimum services and internet plans.
Optimum Internet Plans and Services
Optimum is one of the major ISPs in the US. It’s owned by Altice. The company operates in the New York tri-state area and Pennsylvania.
Optimum is primarily a cable internet provider. Its cable internet is available to almost 12 million people, which makes it the 4th largest cable internet provider in the US by coverage area.
Optimum cable internet coverage map (source – broadbandnow)
Besides cable internet, Optimum also offers fiber internet to select areas, mostly in New York. Their fiber network is constantly growing. At the moment, Optimum fiber services are available to almost 2 million people.
Optimum Fiber internet coverage map (source – broadbandnow)
Optimum internet plans, both fiber and cable, offer the same download speeds at the same price. The only difference is in the upload speeds – fiber plans come with a much more symmetrical download/upload ratio.
The biggest internet plans are Gigabit plans. If you’re subscribed to their fiber plan, you’ll get 940 Mbps download and 940 Mbps upload. If you’re subscribed to 1 Gig cable plan, you’ll get 940/50.
Below, you can see Optimum’s promotional deals. Those prices apply only to new subscribers who are willing to sign a contract and opt for paperless bills. Also, the prices will likely be raised after the promotional 1-year period.
Optimum internet plans – promo deals
You don’t have to sign the contract, but you won’t get these deals. If you don’t sign the deal, the prices are the same as Verizon FiOS prices. We’re mentioning FiOS only because Optimum likes to compare its services to FiOS and because they claim that they are cheaper than FiOS. So, yeah, they’re cheaper, but only if you sign the contract. Still, we can’t say that Optimum doesn’t offer competitive internet plans and prices.
Pros and Cons of Optimum Internet Service
Well, you already know that they offer good speeds at reasonable prices. Also, unlike some ISPs (Xfinity, Cox, AT&T, Mediacom, Frontier, etc.), Optimum plans don’t come with data caps. At least not yet. This applies to both – fiber and cable plans. That’s a huge plus if you ask us.
With every Optimum plan, you will also get a gateway (or a modem and a router). The rental fee is $10/month ($120/year). Some plans come with very capable wi-fi 6 routers, but that probably applies (for now) to pricier fiber plans.
Some internet plans come with WiFi6 routers (source – Optimum)
On the Optimum official webpage, you will find a claim that Optimum has been ranked the most reliable ISP 6 years in a row.
However, if you look at the official ASCI rankings, you will notice that their claim is not exactly true. Optimum is among the top 5.
ISP Customer Experience Benchmarks (source – ASCI)
Since 2020, the ASCI also measures customer satisfaction with in-home wi-fi services provided by various ISPs. Optimum scored 70 (same as AT&T, Mediacom, and Spectrum). Xfinity and Verizon FiOS are ranked 1st and 2nd. According to customers, these two companies offer the best in-home wi-fi quality.
Source – ASCI Index Telecommunications Report 2019/2020
Buying Equipment VS Renting
The most often stated motive for buying your own modem/router or gateway is money saving. Assuming that you’re paying $10/month (that’s Optimum’s equipment rental fee), you will spend $120 per year, or $600 in 5 years. For that kind of money (or even much less), you can buy quite powerful and future-proof equipment, much better than the one provided by your ISP.
The other reason for buying third-party equipment is better overall performance – more reliable wireless connection, better wi-fi coverage, and faster wi-fi speeds. You can find the proof for this claim in the previously mentioned ASCI index Telecommunications Report. Since 2020, ASCI measures satisfaction with wi-fi services of those using third-party equipment and those using equipment provided by their ISPs. Results clearly indicate that those using third-party equipment are more satisfied.
Official data proves that customers using third-party equipment are more satisfied (source – ASCI)
Finally, here’s the conclusion from this ASCI Report:
So, if you’re asking us, buying third-party equipment is a better option. The only problem is – depending on the internet plan and type of service, you may not be able to use third-party equipment. We will discuss this topic in the next chapter.
Is Buying an Optimum Compatible Modem/Router a Viable option?
If you’re subscribed to one of the Optimum fiber plans, you will get Optimum’s optical gateway and you will have to pay the rental fee. You can’t buy the gateway from Optimum and you can’t buy it elsewhere. You’re practically stuck with it and there’s no way to change that. What’s even worse, you can’t connect your router to the existing gateway and get better wi-fi coverage and speeds. At the moment, the gateway doesn’t support bridge mode, DMZ, or pass-through (like AT&T gateway). So, if you connect your router directly to the provided gateway, you may experience some double NAT issues.
If you are, on the other hand, subscribed to one of the cable plans, you will get a cable modem and a router. If you decide to rent, you will have to pay that standard $10 monthly fee, but you can also choose to buy your own equipment. In this case, it is possible to use third-party equipment. Just return the equipment Optimum gave you, and they will stop charging you. Depending on your internet plan, you will either need a DOCSIS 3.0 or a DOCSIS 3.1 modem and a matching router. Generally speaking, DOCSIS 3.0 modem is required for internet plans up to 400 Mbps, while DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem is required for internet plans higher than 400 Mbps.
Have in mind that you can use your own modem and router only in case you are subscribed to internet service. If you’re subscribed to some other services as well (like voice service), you will have to use the Optimum gateway. You can try some other gateway, but there’s no guarantee it will work.
Optimum does offer a very short list of approved third-party modems and gateways compatible with their services. However, these are not the only modems compatible with Optimum. Many modems are, in fact, compatible with Optimum (at least with internet services). Some of the models you can find on the list of Optimum-compatible modems are Arris TM1602, Arris TM822, Arris TM804, Arris/Motorola SBV6220, Cisco DPQ3212, Cisco DPQ3925, etc. On the Optimum official webpage, you can even find a short tutorial on what to look for when buying an Optimum-compatible modem, but the list they offer is still very short.
What to Look for When Buying an Optimum Compatible Modem/Router?
First of all, you have to look for DOCSIS 3.0 or 3.1 modems. DOCSIS 3.1 would be a better option, and it’s the only option if you’re subscribed to 1Gig plans. The second thing to check is the number of downstream and upstream channels. If it has more channels, the modem supports higher download/upload speeds.
Max DOCSIS 3.0 speeds
If you’re buying a gateway (a modem that has a router built inside) or a separate router, you also have to check supported wireless standards and the number of bands. Ideally, you will buy a tri-band or at least a dual-band gateway/router that supports the latest 802.11ax wireless (aka WiFi6). WiFi5 (802.11ac) modem is the second-best option. You may also want to check additional security features, the number of USB ports, OFDMA and MU-MIMO support, etc.
Registering Your Third-Party Modem with Optimum
To avoid paying the installation fees, you can install and register your modem on your own, without a technician. Connecting the equipment should not be a huge deal. First, you have to connect the coaxial cable to the coax connector on the back of your modem. Then, connect the modem to your computer using an Ethernet cable. Now, you need to register your modem. Instead of calling customer support, you can visit this Optimum self-installation webpage, and just follow the instructions. That will save you a lot of time and nerves. Once you register your modem, you can disconnect it from your PC, connect it to your router, and start using it.
We have now covered the basics and can finally move onto our selection of the best Optimum compatible modems. The following modems are our top picks.
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1. Best Optimum Compatible Modem with Voice Service Under $100 – ARRIS Touchstone TM1602A
Compatible with internet plans up to Optimum 300
This is one of the modems listed on the Optimum webpage, so it’s definitely compatible with Optimum cable internet.
ARRIS TM1602A is a DOCSIS 3.0 featuring 16×4 channel bonding. The max theoretical speed is 960 Mbps, but you probably shouldn’t use it for plans above 300 Mbps.
Have in mind that this is a standalone modem, not a gateway. You will have to buy a compatible router separately. Ideally, you will be looking for a router that supports speeds up to 300 Mbps on a 2.4 GHz band.
On the front side of the modem, there’re 6 LED lights (on/off, upstream/downstream, online, TEL 1, TEL 2, battery). On the back, you have a coax connector, WAN Ethernet port, and two VoIP phone ports.
2. Best Optimum Compatible Modem Under $100 – Motorola MB7621
Compatible with plans up to Optimum 500
MB7621 is a fairly affordable DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem. It features 24×8 channel bonding, and its advertised max supported download speed is 1,000 Mbps. Still, you shouldn’t be using it for speeds above 500 Mbps. As always, the advertised speeds are much lower than the real-life speeds.
Please note that this is not a router – it’s just a modem. Also, it doesn’t have VoIP telephone ports, so if you are subscribed to Voice service, this is not a good option for you.
The modem features a very attractive and slim design. There’s a nice black screen on the front featuring 5 LED indicators. All the inputs are on the back. The input layout is super-simple – you have a coax connector, one Gigabit Ethernet port (for connecting your router), a reset pinhole, and power input.
3. Best Optimum Compatible Modem Under $150 – ARRIS SURFboard SB8200
Compatible with all Optimum cable internet plans
SURFboard SB8200 could easily be one of the most popular cable modems on the market. It delivers stable and reliable performance with consistent speeds, and it’s perfect for all Optimum plans including Optimum 1 GIG. It is, arguably, one of the best cable modems under $150 on the market.
SB8200 is a DOCSIS 3.1 modem. It features 32×8 channel bonding in DOCSIS 3.0 mode, as well as 2×2 OFDM DOCSIS 3.1 channel bonding. The max advertised speed is 10 Gbps, but it’s recommended for use with Gigabit internet plans.
Bear in mind that SB8200 is a standalone modem, which means that you will also have to buy the router. Ideally, you will buy some capable WiFi6 tri-band router.
On the front panel of the SB8200, you have 4 LEDs (Power, Upstream, Downstream, Online). On the back, there’s a coax connector, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and a power input.
The modem comes with a power cable, one Ethernet cable, and a 2-year warranty.
4. Best Alternative to SB8200 – Motorola MB8611
Compatible with all Optimum cable internet plans
Motorola MB8611 is a great (and slightly pricier) alternative to SB8200. It looks exactly the same as previously reviewed MB7621, but there are a few important differences.
First of all, MB8611 is a DOCSIS 3.1 modem (not 3.0). It features 32×8 DOCSIS 3.0 channel bonding, as well as 2×2 OFDM DOCSIS 3.1 channel bonding. Instead of a 1GIG Ethernet port, MB8611 features one 2.5 Gig port. The advertised max speed is 2.5 Gbps, which makes it a perfect choice for various 1 Gig internet plans, including Optimum 1 Gig.
MB8611 is not a router and doesn’t have phone ports. You will have to buy the router separately.
5. Best Optimum Compatible Modem Under $200 – NETGEAR Nighthawk CM2000
Compatible with all Optimum cable internet plans
NETGEAR Nighthawk is probably one of the best-known and most popular modem/router brands. They are not the cheapest on the market, but they do offer very reliable performance and great speeds.
Like most of the Nighthawk modems and routers. CM2000 features quite unusual and eye-catching design. On the rear panel, you have one 2.5G Ethernet port, a coax connector, and a power input.
CM2000 is a DOCSIS 3.1 modem. It features 32×8 channel bonding in DOCSIS 3.0 mode, and 2×2 OFDM channel bonding. The modem is built for speeds up to 2.5 Gbps, which makes it perfect for the Optimum 1 GIG plan.
CM2000 doesn’t have a built-in router. You have to buy the router separately. For 1 GIG plan, NETGEAR recommends a Wi-Fi 6 router, preferably some NETGEAR Nighthawk router (Nighthawk XR1000, RAX70, RAX200, etc.).
6. Best Optimum Compatible Gateway Under $250 – ARRIS SURFboard SBG8300
Compatible with all Optimum cable internet plans
Unlike all the previous devices, SBG8300 is a gateway (modem + router). It’s maybe a bit pricey but, considering all the features, overall performance, and supported speeds, it is definitely not too expensive.
The modem inside SBG8300 is DOCSIS 3.1. It features 32×8 DOCSIS 3.0 channel bonding, as well as 2×2 OFDM DOCIS 3.1 channel bonding. This modem is a perfect choice for any 1 GIG cable internet plan.
The router inside the SBG8300 is compatible with the 802.11ac wireless standard. It’s not the latest wi-fi 6 router, but it’s still quite capable and it’s dual-band. It can transmit on both bands simultaneously. The router is advertised as AC2350, but there’s no info about max speeds on both bands. Based on our experience, you will probably get up to 600 Mbps on 2.4 GHz, and up to 1700 Mbps on 5 GHz.
To set up the modem and adjust all kinds of settings, you can use the SURFboard Manager app (iOS/Android). The app allows you to adjust parental settings, monitor connected devices, create a guest network, etc.
SBG8300 features 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports. It’s compatible with several major cable internet providers and most operating systems.
This concludes our selection of the best Optimum compatible modems. We hope it helped you understand why using third-party equipment is a better option than using generic equipment provided by your ISP. If you want to learn more, read our FAQs. As always, we encourage you to comment and share your experience and opinions.
Q: Can I buy my own modem for Optimum?
A: If you’re subscribed to one of the Optimum cable plans, then yes. You can use your cable modem and your router. If you are, on the other hand, subscribed to Optimum fiber internet, you have to use their fiber modem, and you will have to pay the rental fees.
Q: Are all routers Optimum compatible?
A: Well, if you look at the list of compatible modems on the Optimum website, you would assume that there are only a few compatible modems. The situation is not that hopeless. Not even close. If you’re only subscribed to one of the cable internet plans (no voice service or TV), every DOCSIS 3.1 modem should work. For plans up to 300 Mbps, you can also use almost any DOCSIS 3.0 modem.
The problem with using third-party modems is that Optimum doesn’t want to help you register the modem. They don’t want you to use your equipment – they want you to rent. Luckily, the installation is quite simple – after connecting everything you just have to visit the official self-installation page and follow the instructions. There’s no need to call customer support or wait for the technician to come.
Q: Will any modem work with any internet provider?
A: The short answer would be no. But things are a bit more complicated than that. First of all, there’s the type of internet service. Are you subscribed to DSL internet, cable internet, or fiber? For DSL internet, you need a DSL modem. For cable internet, you need a cable modem. For fiber, you may not need a modem at all. In some cases, the ONT (installed by your ISP) connects directly to your router. In other cases, you have to rent the fiber modem from your ISP and there’s no way to avoid that.
Now, not every DSL modem works with every DSL plan. Also, there’re various types of DSL connection – ADSL, ADSL2+, VDSL, xDSL, etc. You have to find a DSL modem that supports the speeds and connection type that you have.
When it comes to cable internet, you are going to need either DOCSIS 3.0 or DOCSIS 3.1 modem. For plans above 400 Mbps (including 1 Gig plans), you definitely need a DOCSIS 3.1 modem.
Q: Can I buy my own cable box for optimum?
A: You cannot buy your own cable box for Optimum – you have to rent it. If you don’t want Optimum TV, you could try using some third-party Android box.
Q: What is the best Optimum compatible modem?
A: Well, that depends on your internet plan, your budget, and maybe even on your preferences. If you’re subscribed to one of the cheaper plans (up to Optimum 300), using a cheaper DOCSIS 3.0 modem is a viable option. If you’re subscribed to Optimum 500 or Optimum 1 GIG, you will need a pricier DOCSIS 3.1 modem. The price of DOCSIS 3.1 modems varies from $100 to $300+.
Another thing that affects your choice is your preference and available space. Some people prefer using separate units because they usually deliver better performance. Others like compact solutions and the best option for them is buying a gateway.
Regardless of your budget, your internet plan, and other factors, our selection of the best Optimum compatible modems has at least one model that meets all of your requirements. Just scroll back, and find the perfect device for your needs.
Q: Is it worth buying your own Optimum compatible modem?
A: Yes, it is. To be more specific, it’s worth if you’re only subscribed to one of the cable internet plans. By buying your own Optimum compatible modem, you will save money and get better performance.
Q: Do modem and router have to be the same brand?
A: No, they don’t have to be the same brand. They just have to match the speeds that you’re paying for. You can, for example, have a NETGEAR modem and a TP-Link router (or any other combo).
Hey, I’m Jeremy Clifford. I hold a bachelor’s degree in information systems, and I’m a certified network specialist. I worked for several internet providers in LA, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Seattle over the past 21 years.
I worked as a customer service operator, field technician, network engineer, and network specialist. During my career in networking, I’ve come across numerous modems, gateways, routers, and other networking hardware. I’ve installed network equipment, fixed it, designed and administrated networks, etc.
Networking is my passion, and I’m eager to share everything I know with you. On this website, you can read my modem and router reviews, as well as various how-to guides designed to help you solve your network problems. I want to liberate you from the fear that most users feel when they have to deal with modem and router settings.
My favorite free-time activities are gaming, movie-watching, and cooking. I also enjoy fishing, although I’m not good at it. What I’m good at is annoying David when we are fishing together. Apparently, you’re not supposed to talk or laugh while fishing – it scares the fishes.
- Pros and Cons of Optimum Internet Service
- Buying Equipment VS Renting
- Is Buying an Optimum Compatible Modem/Router a Viable option?
- What to Look for When Buying an Optimum Compatible Modem/Router?
- Registering Your Third-Party Modem with Optimum
- 1. Best Optimum Compatible Modem with Voice Service Under $100 – ARRIS Touchstone TM1602A
- 2. Best Optimum Compatible Modem Under $100 – Motorola MB7621
- 3. Best Optimum Compatible Modem Under $150 – ARRIS SURFboard SB8200
- 4. Best Alternative to SB8200 – Motorola MB8611
- 5. Best Optimum Compatible Modem Under $200 – NETGEAR Nighthawk CM2000
- 6. Best Optimum Compatible Gateway Under $250 – ARRIS SURFboard SBG8300